Noachide Worship by Jim

Noachide Worship by Jim

 

Con,

 

Sometimes people look for more to serving God than is necessary. They want special rituals, a formula, something to raise their emotions and make them feel closer to God, whether or not they are actually closer to God. The desire to fulfill this religious emotion has led to great errors. People replace truth with “spirituality”, and invest themselves in all sorts of false practices that make them feel spiritual, closer to the divine, or “one with the universe”. Instead of getting closer to God, however, most of these practices take one further from God and into serving the product of one’s imagination.

 

This is a difficulty for many people. I have met Noachides who do not feel that there is enough service to God in obeying his commands. The fact that the Universal Laws are mostly, although not entirely, prohibitions, leaves some Noachides with a sense that they count less than the Jewish people, who have been given specific practices. The restraints placed upon their lives do not feel like service to them, and some have been tempted to create their own forms of worship. However, doing so does not bring one actually closer to God; it only placates the religious emotion. Sadly, they have not understood that adherence to the Universal Laws is service to God.

 

One may keep the Laws in one of two ways, incidentally or intentionally. When one keeps them incidentally, he does not observe the Laws because they are God’s Laws, but because society accepts them, or he fears reprisal if he breaks them, or he finds them sensible. He may, for example, refrain from stealing, because he understands that no society can exist when people do not respect the property rights of others. This self-restraint he practices is good, but he does not do it to keep God’s Law. He has only kept God’s Law incidentally.

 

One keeps the Laws intentionally when he does so because they are God’s Laws. Keeping the Universal Laws takes on the character of obedience to God. His self-restraint takes on the character of righteousness. And when he reflects on the Laws and sees that his actions submit him to the expressed will of God, he does not need to invent a service to perform for God. He is not seeking to titillate his own emotions; he is seeking to follow the Command of God. Such a man will not denigrate them because they are prohibitions. He knows that no Law authored by God is inferior.

 

On the other hand, some will feel that because they already do not steal that there is nothing special in not stealing. These have not avoided theft because of God’s command. Their actions are not devoted to God. Their self-restraint is not an act of devotion to God. They have not spent time thinking about these acts as obedience. They are too busy looking for something they can perform for God. What they do not realize is that God needs nothing, and there is nothing they can do for Him. They can only do what He has required.

 

Such people are like a husband who knows that his wife would appreciate him not leaving wet towels on the floor, taking off muddy boots before he comes in, and the like, but he does not do these small things that would show consideration of her feelings. He is always looking for some big gesture that will make him feel pleased with himself for his grandiosity. It is not her feelings with which he is concerned; it is his own.

 

Such people sometimes look to emulate the Jewish people. They feel that they have been denied something in lacking practice. They adopt Jewish practice, and it makes them feel good. And it is easy, because it is not required of them. They do it because they want to do it. But if it were to become a command to them, they would become rebellious. Once it becomes a requirement, the natural human propensity to resist command kicks in. They do not find themselves so pleased by the same actions as when it was not required.

 

If only they had sought to please God and not themselves, they would have been enriched by His Commands. They would become mindful of even minor violations. They would avoid taking extra ketchup packets from fast food restaurants when they have none at home, because they wish to obey God. To guard themselves, they would study the details of His Laws, and be mindful of them at all times. Their minds would be turned to God constantly. If they take on more commands later, it will be with wisdom, studied and thoughtful, mindful of their God, not attempting to please themselves. They would seek to understand His Torah, and not look for an interpretation that fit their philosophy. They would submit their judgment to His.

 

Such being the case, they will find that the prohibitions of the Universal Law are fulfilling. They are not without power to bring one close to God. Those Laws allow humanity to honor God daily. They may not give one an ecstatic experience, but they are the mark of devotion. And no Noachide who truly keeps the Seven Laws need ever feel like they are lesser children.

 

Con,

 

I have identified a source of error. I am not passing judgment on those who find dissatisfaction with the Seven Laws. Those who have come out of a prior religion, in particular, are bound to grope with the need to fill in a void. They are used to performing particular acts, many of which they have just renounced. Moreover, those things pleased the emotions. And now they have seemingly nothing to please the emotions. There is nothing nefarious in this. I am not judging people. It is, however, a source of error.

 

To correct the error, we must understand that the Laws given to us are good and by fulfilling them we are living a life of devotion. And that life is not one designed specifically to appeal to our emotions. Still, I think that anyone who understands those commandments, who turns his attention to the Creator will find himself fulfilled emotionally, for he will have directed his energies to something real.

 

I think if you will reread your comment to me, you will see that you have illustrated my point. You write that all the prayers of thanks on the holidays regard Israel. The poor Noachide who has this attitude is asking God, “What have you done for me lately?” Of course he should be offering his gratitude to God on behalf of the good given him by God. Is there any human who brought himself into existence? When I prayed this morning, I thanked Hashem for my wife and children, and the life that we have together. What human being can find himself contemplating his very existence and complain that God did not part the waters for my fathers? Let him thank God for his previous breath.

 

A Noachide who feels that God has done nothing for him does not truly understand the situation at all. I can find no reason for jealousy in the Noachide chest. And yet, I do give thanks for the things God did for Israel. I am very thankful for the nation that has preserved the knowledge of God in the world while my ancestors followed after their vain imaginations. I am thankful for that priestly nation which has carried the Torah, a burden made heavy by the nations who oppressed them. So yes, I offer thanks for God’s preservation of Israel, because it has redounded to my good. Let no Noachide feel inferior for having no national miracle, for every miracle performed for Israel has benefited us.

 

Let those who wish to convert, convert. It is a good thing. I said nothing against those who wish to convert. But if they wish to convert, I hope it is not because they feel less than the Jew. The Jewish people have performed a valuable service for us. We should give them our gratitude, not our envy. Let those who wish to convert do it for love. I write nothing against conversion, but like anything else in life, if done for the wrong reasons, it will not benefit the convert. He is likely to find himself eventually dissatisfied.

 

I could not write against conversion, for I and my family wish to convert as well. But if ever we want to do it because we think that it is not “good enough” to be Noachides, then let it not happen. If we do it because we feel envious that others have Pesach, tefillin, or mezuzot, may we never convert. If we don’t do it for love of God, love of Torah, and love of the Jewish people, may it never happen.

 

But please do not think that because I identify the source of error means that I think ill of people. Every human I have ever met has made mistakes. Most of the big one’s to which I have been witness, I have also been the source. But when we recognize an error, we must take steps to correct it. The Noachide who feels he cannot draw close to God through the Noachide Laws does not yet understand them properly.

Posted in The Righteous Gentile | Leave a comment

Isaiah 53 – a Verse by Verse Exposition

Isaiah 53 – a Verse by Verse Exposition

52:13 Behold, My servant shall succeed; he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty.

The success and exaltation of God’s servant is an event that the prophet sees as futuristic. The immediate context (52:7-12) tells us that this is part of the blessing that Israel will experience at the time of her restoration.

52:14 Just as many were astonished over you, [saying] his appearance is too marred to be that of man and his visage to be human.

The prophet is talking to the servant in the first person, another indication that the servant is Israel. In the previous verses (52:7-12), the prophet speaks to Israel in the first person several times.

The prophet identifies the servant as one who was considered by many to be subhuman. The onlookers judged the servant to be subhuman because of the way he appeared to them.

52:15 So shall he overthrow many nations, kings will shut their mouths, for that which they had never been told they will [now] see and that which they had never heard they will [now] perceive.

The servant is depicted as one who overcomes nations. (It is through the overpowering of nations that the servant “divides spoils” as the prophet foretells in 53:12. See also Micah 4:13; 5:7; Isaiah 41:15,16.) The prophet is telling us that just as many were astonished by the servant’s lowliness so will many witness the servant’s victory and exaltation.

The kings of nations will know the servant and his exaltation will take them by surprise. They had heard various teachings about the servant but they had never been told about the exaltation that they are now witnessing. (See Micah 7:16).

53:1 Who would have believed our report, and upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.

These are the words of the surprised kings described in the previous verse. (The same grammatical pattern is found in Isaiah 14:16 where the verb for “perception” is followed by the words of those “perceiving” without a direct introduction.) These kings have known the servant throughout his period of lowliness and in all of that time they were never told how the servant will one day be exalted by God to the degree that they now witness. The report that they now hear (and perceive) is something that they would have never believed in the time of the servant’s lowliness.

The revelation of the arm of the Lord has already been described in 52:10 where we clearly see how the arm of the Lord is revealed on behalf of Israel. (See Psalm 98:1-3).

53:2 He grew like a sapling before Him and like a root from arid ground, he had neither form nor grandeur; we saw him, but without such visage that we should desire him.

The kings speak of the former state of the servant (before his exaltation). They describe his existence as an impossibility; like a root in an arid and dry land. The kings describe the servant as one who was not attractive or majestic in any way.

53:3 Scorned and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness, as one from whom we would hide our faces; he was scorned and we had no regard for him.

The prophet continues with the words of the kings who had shunned the servant throughout his time of lowliness. The general state of the servant throughout this period was that he was separated from the rest of humanity. The kings describe him as a figure that was so visibly stricken by suffering that it was difficult for people to look at him.

53:4 But in truth, it was our ills that he bore and our pains that he carried; but we had regarded him diseased, stricken by God and afflicted.

The kings now realize that their spiritual assessment of the servant was completely backward. During the time of the servant’s lowliness those who knew him believed that his constant affliction proves that he is spiritually deformed. Otherwise, why would this nation be singled out for God’s wrath over any other?

But now, with the servant’s exaltation, they realize that the servant was not more wicked than them but more righteous. Their assessment of the servant is reversed because they come to a true understanding of God’s plan throughout history. With the restoration of Israel and God’s glory coming to dwell in the Jerusalem Temple the nations of the world will experience true sanctity and a real connection to God. They will realize that many of their activities were actively preventing God’s presence from being manifest in this world, even though they had considered many of these activities to be righteous and Godly.

In order for God’s presence to be revealed in this world there needs to be obedience and humility toward God. This obedience does not have to be perfect because God doesn’t demand from His creations that which they cannot deliver, but it needs to be accepting of God’s sovereignty to the degree that humans are capable.

Since all of mankind benefits from God’s presence being manifest in this world it would be appropriate that all of mankind participate in the work of preparing a resting place for God’s presence. The way that this sanctuary for God would be prepared would necessitate that mankind purify its collective heart. In order to build this dwelling place for God mankind would need to strive to achieve humility toward God and to accept God’s sovereignty.

But instead of putting this task on the shoulders of all mankind, God placed this task on the shoulders of His servant. Instead of purifying the collective heart of all mankind, God chose to purify the collective heart of His servant Israel and His servant will then shine the truth toward the rest of mankind. The nations will walk by that light and partake of the goodness of God (Isaiah 60:3). And the way that God chose to purify the heart of His servant is through suffering (Isaiah 48:10).

With the exaltation of the servant the nations will realize that it was through the servant that God was accomplishing His purpose in the world for the benefit of all mankind. The suffering that the servant bore should have been borne by all mankind, and if anything, the nations should have carried the brunt of the suffering, because it was their wickedness that was more directly standing in the way of God’s purpose for the world.

53:5 He was violated because of our sins and crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his company, we were healed.

With the servant’s exaltation, the kings will finally realize that the ultimate goal toward which God was leading all of mankind was not the exaltation of the object of their own devotion, but that it was the exaltation of the object of Israel’s devotion that all of history was leading to. They will realize that much of what they considered Godly was directly opposing God’s plan. And they will realize that the servant’s activities were pleasing to God all along. They will recognize that any blessing that they merited was because of their association with the servant. The purification process that the servant had to undergo was more for the general benefit of mankind than for his own benefit.

The last phrase in this verse can also be translated as: “and with his wounds we were healed.” The point remains the same. With the exaltation of the servant the nations realize that the merit of the servant had protected them all along and the servant’s merit and righteousness was achieved through his suffering.   

53:6 We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and the Lord inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.

With the exaltation of the servant the nations come to the realization that while they believed that they were “following God,” in truth they were following their own way because God had never commanded them to walk in those paths. The nations thought that they were achieving atonement for their own sins, each according to their own respective theologies on the subject. But they now see that they were doing nothing to move God’s purpose forward. It was the despised servant who was moving God’s purpose forward. It was in the heart of the servant that God was preparing a corner of humility and obedience that would serve as God’s dwelling place for the benefit of all mankind. And it was in the heart of the servant that the refining process of purging the world of rebellion against God was taking place.

53:7 He was persecuted and afflicted, but he did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to the slaughter or like a ewe that is silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.

The prophet continues to describe the suffering of the servant. We are given to understand that the persecutors of the servant saw him as an animal. The attitude of the servant’s enemies was that suffering is the God-ordained lot of the servant just as sheep were put in this world by God to be shorn and slaughtered. And anything that the servant might have said in self-defense was as meaningless to his persecutors as the bleating of sheep before those who sheer them.

The prophet uses the metaphors of slaughtering and sheering to indicate that the servant suffered through his enemies in two different ways. Sometimes his enemies would slaughter him as people would slaughter sheep. And even when his enemies would not kill him they would still fleece him of his possessions just as people shear the wool off their sheep.

53:8 Through government and judgment was he deprived, and who could describe his generation, for he was cut off from the land of the living, it was for the sin of my nation that they were afflicted

The prophet explains that the persecutors of the servant were not criminals and outcasts from society; it was the governments and the court-systems of the nations that persecuted the servant. Persecution of the servant was not only legalized, but was elevated to the status of religious virtue and patriotic duty.

An alternate interpretation of the opening phrase of this verse would have the prophet telling us that the servant had been deprived of his own government and justice system.     

The second phrase in this verse teaches us that the suffering of the servant had been so extreme that no one could express it in words.

The third phrase in this verse teaches us that the servant wasn’t simply killed but that he was deemed unworthy to partake of life together with the rest of humanity. The persecutors of the servant saw him as a subhuman creature that has no rightful place in this world.

The fourth phrase in this verse is the expression of each of the gentile kings acknowledging that it was through the guilt of their own respective nations that the servant suffered. The persecution of the servant was directly proportionate to the evil in the hearts of his persecutors. Throughout history, when a society degenerated into cruelty and evil, they persecuted the Jew. The corrupt Catholic Church, the evil Czars and the brutal Nazis all showed their true colors with their treatment of the Jewish people.

53:9 And he placed his grave with the wicked and his deaths were with the rich for no violence that he had done nor for any deception that was in his mouth.

Here the prophet reveals how the persecutors of the servant justified and legalized their persecution. They believed as an article of faith that the servant was a violent criminal and that he had gained wealth through deception and the servant was innocent of both of these charges.

Throughout the history of the world, the enemies of the Jews believed that the Jewish people are murderers and liars. The Gospel of John elevates belief in this accusation to the status of religious dogma (John 8:44), and one of the world’s most popular books, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, ensures that people will still believe these lies until the ultimate exaltation of the servant.

The servant was well aware of these accusations. The servant was also aware of the consequences of these accusations. The righteous of Israel realized that their loyalty to God and their refusal to submit to the idols and ideologies of the nations around them will mean that they will be executed in the most gruesome ways and that their graves will be marked as the graves of criminals. And they willingly accepted this fate.

53:10 And the Lord desired to crush and afflict him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt, he would see offspring and live long days and the purpose of God will succeed through his hand.

At this point, the prophetic narrator moves away from the voices of the shocked onlookers and gives us his own perspective of the suffering of the servant. The emphasis changes according to the spiritual needs of the respective speakers. There isn’t much spiritual benefit to be gained by focusing on the guilt of others. It is for this reason that the kings of nations focus on their own guilt as it relates to the suffering of the servant, and for this same reason, the focus shifts to the guilt of the servant when addressing the servant. After all, the audience of the prophet is the people of Israel.

The prophet tells us that God desired to afflict the servant. The purpose of Israel’s suffering, from Israel’s perspective, is to refine them. As a loving father rebukes his son so does God put Israel through the crucible of exile (Deuteronomy 8:5; Proverbs 3:11,12; Amos 3:2).

In order for the suffering to accomplish its purpose the servant needs to acknowledge and to recognize his own guilt. No created being is free of guilt and by acknowledging guilt we come closer to God’s truth. Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah were all righteous people yet they all acknowledged their own guilt together with the sins of the nation (Isaiah 6:5; Daniel 9:20; Ezra 9:6; Nehemiah 1:6).

The prophet goes on to tell us the reward that the servant will experience as a result of acknowledging his guilt. The servant will see his physical progeny walking in his footsteps and his days will be lengthened. These two blessings are not unrelated. No individual saint is guaranteed long days. But through his progeny the servant perseveres and outlasts his persecutors. The might, the splendor and the power of those who persecuted the Jew have long faded away while the Jew still prays the same prayers and studies the same texts with freshness and vitality. It is the same Jew that stirred the fanatical hatred of the Church fathers, the mobs of Crusaders, the Moslem Almohads, the Inquisitors, the Ukrainian soldiers of Chemilnicki, the Russian Czars, the Communists and the Nazis. These and many like them have come and gone but the Jew is still here.

The greatest gift that God has granted His servant is the promise that God’s own purpose in this world will be accomplished through him. The righteous of Israel are called God’s armor bearers (Isaiah 52:11). God allowed them to join Him in bringing His light to the world.

53:11 From the travail of his soul he will see and be satiated, with his knowledge will My righteous servant render many righteous and he will bear their sins.

The prophet continues to describe the reward that the servant will experience as a recompense for his suffering. The servant will see the good that was achieved through his suffering and he will be satiated with the knowledge that God’s purpose was brought to fruition through his suffering.

The servant will utilize his knowledge to render the many righteous. Israel will teach the truth that they carry in their heart (Isaiah 51:7) to the nations (Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 42:4). And even after the exaltation will the servant take responsibility for the sins of the nations. Israel is called upon to be God’s priest (Isaiah 61:6). Just as the priests in the Temple bore the responsibility of Israel’s sins so does Israel bear the responsibility of the sins of the nations (Numbers 18:1). It is the priest’s responsibility to teach the people and guide them and if the people fail, the priests are held responsible (Malachi 2:8). In the Messianic age, the responsibility to teach mankind will fall on the shoulders of the righteous of Israel.

53:12 Therefore, I will assign him a portion from the many and he will divide the mighty as spoils, in return for having poured out his soul for death and being counted among the wicked, for he bore the sin of the many, and he will pray for the wicked

This verse continues with the description of the servant’s reward. The servant will be given the wealth of his persecutors. These will be granted to him as spoils of war (Isaiah 33:23; Ezekiel 39:10; Zechariah 14:14).

This reward is due to the servant for his willingness to die for God’s sake and for accepting the scorn of his persecutors who considered his faith to be criminal. The suffering that the righteous of Israel endured, a suffering that included being the outcast of humanity and oftentimes even death, brought all of mankind to experience the light of God (Isaiah 60:3). The men that God chose as His armor bearers fought a difficult battle but their task is never done. Even after their exaltation and vindication, they will still pray on behalf of all mankind.  

 

 

Posted in Isaiah 53, Scripture | 1 Comment

What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference?

An Open Response to Eric

This letter is a response to Eric’s comment: http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/isaiah-53-micah-7-and-isaiah-62/#comment-13485

Eric

Thanks for your questions and for the time and effort that you invest in this discussion. It is through discussions such as these that we can arrive at the truth.

I pointed out that the servant of Isaiah 53 acknowledges his own guilt. This is not my opinion but this concept emerges from the words of the prophet. The prophet clearly says that the servant needs to see his own soul as guilty (verse 10) in order for God’s purpose to succeed through him. In one of your recent comments you asked, what then is the difference between the servant and those who had went astray that the prophet mentioned in verse 5?

I think your question goes to the root of the difference between our opposing world-views. Christianity teaches that if someone is guilty on one point of the Law it is as if he violated all of the Law. But this is not the teaching of the Jewish Bible. The Jewish Bible teaches that every human being sins and even angels are imperfect (Job 15:14,15). But this doesn’t stop God from proclaiming that He sealed a covenant with Abraham because Abraham had listened to His voice, obeyed His commandments, His statutes and His laws (Genesis 26:5). David sinned, but this does not stop God form pointing to Him as an example of obedience (1Kings 11:34). Not only are Abraham and David examples of obedience but their merit protects their progeny as well (Exodus 32:13; 2Kings 20:6).

David proclaims that his sin is ever before him (Psalm 51:5). But he is still God’s faithful servant whose merit can protect others.

The servant of Isaiah is no different. As it is with David, so it is with every servant of God. Part and parcel of being a servant of God is the acknowledgment of guilt. No human being can claim sinlessness and certainly not a truthful servant of God. But this does not mean that the servant cannot protect others through his merit. Just as David attained his spiritual level of closeness to God through trials and tribulations, so it is with the servant that Isaiah is describing. And had David only needed to protect himself, he would not have had to undergo so much suffering. It was because God wanted David to protect all of Israel that God brought him through so much suffering.

But David himself never expresses this concept for a minute. Nowhere in David’s many words will you find him speaking of his suffering as a benefit for others. But the prophet testifies that David’s merit did protect his city. The same applies to the servant described in Isaiah. God brought him to great levels of righteousness so that his merit can even protect others. And this was accomplished through suffering. But the servant needs to focus on his own guilt in order for the suffering to accomplish its purpose.

So Eric, there is a difference between someone who is loyal to God but has human failings as opposed to someone who has pledged his or her heart to an entity other than God. There is a difference between a nation that sins as humans are wont to do and a nation that perpetrated a holocaust. And with the exaltation of God’s servant, this difference will become obvious to all.

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An Open Response to YSG

YSG has been commenting on the “Christianity Unmasked” page for some time now. This is a response to his most recent comment – 2014/08/02 at 7:07 pm

YSG

You failed to understand my question about the third coming and you have indeed contradicted yourself. You dismiss the possibility of third coming because “The reason there cannot be a third coming is that it would contradict everything that scripture has to say about the second coming and the Kingdom of God. It’s not about what God didn’t say about a third coming. It’s about what he DID say about the second coming that makes any such consideration an absurdity!” These are your words.

This is the very reason why we cannot accept a second coming. It contradicts the heart and soul of the Messianic promises that God gave to the Jewish people through His prophets. God promised a vindication of the Jewish people not their embarrassment (Isaiah 41:11, 49:23,25,26, 60:10-14, 61:6,9, Jeremiah 30:16, Ezekiel 37:28, 39:25-29, Joel 4:2,16,17, Micah 7:10,16,17, Zephaniah 3:20). He promised a restoration of the Mosaic Law not its annulment (Deuteronomy 30:2,8,10, Ezekiel 11:19,20, 36:26,27, 37:24). He promised a restoration of the Temple together with the animal sacrifices and not their replacement (Isaiah 2:2, 60:7, Jeremiah 33:18, Ezekiel 37:26, 43:7, 44:15, Micah 4:1).

You provided a list of prophecies that Jesus allegedly fulfilled. I shall soon demonstrate that he never fulfilled any of them but your list is no response to my challenge to you. I asked you to give me just one prophecy that Jesus fulfilled before his crucifixion, just one – and this you failed to do. All of your “prophecies” are associated with the crucifixion. So my challenge to you still stands – how would a Jew who heard Jesus preach before the crucifixion have been able to accept his messianic claim?

You claim that Jesus fulfilled Psalm 41:9 (its 10 in my Bible). So do you believe that Jesus sinned? Just read verse 5 in this Psalm. Do you believe that this is talking about Jesus or are you just cherry picking what fits your agenda? Am I supposed to take this seriously?

You claim that Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 11:12-13. It is God’s shepherd that is receiving the thirty pieces of silver. Do you believe that Judas was God’s shepherd?

You point to several verses in chapter 53 of Isaiah that you believe Jesus fulfilled. Let me point out to you that you have manipulated God’s word. You quote Isaiah as if he said that the servant died with criminals and was buried in a rich man’s grave when actually Isaiah says that the servant dies with the rich and is buried with criminals. Why did you tamper with the word of God?

I have already demonstrated on this blog why Isaiah 53 teaches that Jesus is not the Messiah – I encourage you to read this – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/isaiah-53-teaches-that-jesus-is-not-the-messiah/

You point to Isaiah 49 as a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus. I explained this prophecy also – please read this – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/armor-bearers-isaiah-5211/

I wrote about Psalm 22 as well – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/psalm-22/

Your quoting of Zechariah 13:6 is quite remarkable. This is speaking about false prophets – do you believe that Jesus was a false prophet?

You claim that Amos 8:9-10 was fulfilled at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This prophecy is directed at the ten Northern tribes. It should have been fulfilled years before Jesus was born. Furthermore, this prophecy has nothing at all to do with the Messiah by any stretch of the imagination.

I addressed Zechariah 12:10 here – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/zechariah-1210/

You claim that Jesus resurrection is predicted in Psalm 16:10. This is David speaking of himself as the Psalm clearly indicates.

You dismiss my point that Jesus’ sought to glorify himself because he sometimes attributes honor to God. You say that I sound “awfully silly” when I say that Jesus was asking for the worship that is coming to God.

Perhaps you aren’t aware of this but there is a world religion which understands Jesus to mean exactly what you refer to as “awfully silly”. Is it perhaps possible that Jesus wasn’t as clear as you claim he was? You realize that this never happened with Moses. Did you ever stop and wonder why?

Posted in Correspondence | 51 Comments

Diverting Attention – by Jim

Some Christians claim that Jesus only ever directed one’s attention to God, that he did not draw attention to himself. One can hardly imagine a greater argument against this than the Gospel of John, which opens “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being….” And that Word, of course, was Jesus. Here, John rewrites the opening of the Torah to replace the Creator with Jesus.

Moreover, John overwrites Pesach with Jesus, making Jesus into the Passover lamb. It is clearly absurd that he attributes the fulfillment of the command not to break the Passover lamb’s bones to Jesus’ bones not being broken. And one ought to strenuously object such obvious abuse of scripture, when one is asked to take it seriously. However, the absurdity of such a claim lends itself more to amusement than to establish serious theology. But the claim that Jesus is the Passover lamb is more significantly troubling than it initial absurdity suggests.

Making Jesus the Passover lamb directs one’s attention from what God did to what Jesus is supposed to have done. I feel I hardly need to explain the Passover lamb. The story is well known. Exodus 12.26 tells us the meaning of the Passover lamb: “You shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians and spared our houses.” It is to remind Israel of their deliverance by God. But John expropriates the observance, hi-jacking it to place his own meaning upon it. John takes the sacrifice meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and the great deliverance of God and makes it about the death of Jesus instead. Some will argue that one can remember both things with the sacrifice, now. Adding the crucifixion to the things memorialized in Passover doesn’t mean that one cannot think also of the Exodus. So, now God shares the spotlight. Clearly, attention has been given to Jesus.

But someone could say that Jesus didn’t point to himself. They could say that John pointed to Jesus, but that was later, in explaining Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was to point to God, and that’s what he did. Anyone who says this is mistaken.

Jesus clearly draws attention to himself, rewriting the meaning of the unleavened bread. It is related, just like the lamb, to the Exodus. God established the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, and He says, “You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought you out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance” (Ex. 12.17.) Not only does God fix the festival to mark the Exodus, He establishes it in perpetuity.

Contrast this to Jesus. The Last Supper is at the beginning of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So, when he takes the bread and breaks it, it is already taking away from God and drawing attention to himself when he says, “Take eat, this is my body” (Mt. 26.26). He says nothing about remembering God. Instead, the disciples are to remember Jesus. In Luke, he takes even another step. “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22.19). Jesus overlays a ceremony to remember himself over one that was meant to remember the acts of God.

It is not credible to say that Jesus only drew attention to God and never to himself. Because he sometimes said things to which few people could object, does not mean that he never said anything objectionable. Just as the NT at times wrote about honoring God and sometimes about honoring Jesus, so did Jesus divert attention from God to himself. He made a divinely ordained festival to be about himself, distracting from the mighty acts of God in freeing the Jewish people from cruel oppression. To argue that he never drew attention to himself is simply untenable.

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Turning on a Dime

It is not easy to determine if someone (or a group of people) arrived at a theological conclusion on the basis of intellectual searching or if the conclusions were generated by some external factor and it is not always ethical to attempt to make these judgments. But when the group in question readily switches their beliefs from end to end simply in order to maintain their conclusion in the face of changing facts, it is naive and even irresponsible to take them seriously. Allow the followers of Jesus to illustrate.

According to the Christian Scriptures the followers of Jesus identified Jesus as the Messiah. This means, in the best case scenario, that the followers of Jesus had carefully and thoroughly built in their minds a comprehensive portrait of the Messiah as predicted by the Jewish prophets. These men felt that their portrait of the Messiah was so solidly grounded in Scripture that they were willing to take upon themselves the weighty responsibility of positively identifying the Messiah with all of its cosmic ramifications. But after all of their Scriptural research they still did not expect Jesus to die (Luke 24:21) and they actually saw his death as a contradiction and a refutation to his Messianic claims. The portrait that they had developed did not include suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection. They had read Isaiah 53, Daniel 7, Psalm 22 and all of the missionary proof-texts without it occurring to them that the Messiah is supposed to suffer and die.

But after Jesus died and after they believed that he was resurrected, their portrait of the Messiah underwent a radical change – now the Messiah MUST suffer, he MUST die and if you deny these Biblical “truths” than you MUST be spiritually blinded.

If the Biblical interpretation could turn around on a dime just so that it can keep up with the devotion, there is no reason to grant it any credibility. It is not a matter of being judgmental; it is a matter of being responsible and faithful to the truths with which we were entrusted.

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An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader”

An Open Letter to “Concerned Reader”

Dear Concerned Reader; this letter is in response to your recent comment: July 26, 2014 at 3:59 am .

I will begin by thanking you for your respectful tone and for your sincerity in demonstrating that there are subtle nuances that get lost in the heat of discussion. I will point out however, that in the work of studying nuances, care must be taken that the broader picture doesn’t go lost.

You say that Jesus is important to you because he was the vehicle through which certain truths came to the gentile world. You acknowledge that these truths are present in authentic Judaism but your contention is that Jesus and his story brought them to the gentile world.

I will point out to you that there is a massive effort sponsored by believers in Jesus to bring Jews, who already accept these truths, to devotion to Jesus. This effort is not something new to Christianity; it has always been an integral part of devotion to Jesus. Something is wrong here. If Jesus is merely a vehicle to bring Judaism to the gentiles then why the effort to convert the Jews?

It would seem that for many Christians, belief in Jesus and devotion to him, are not merely a means to achieve an end, but rather these are an end unto themselves. To these Christians, worship of the Creator of the world as Creator of the world is not good enough. These people pour their energy and finances in order to get worshipers of the Creator to worship Jesus. These people see worship of Jesus as something integral to the human experience and with their activities they acknowledge that this experience cannot be found in worship of the Creator. There is something attracting them to Jesus that has nothing to do with “Creator.”

You speak of the Church teaching the sanctity of life and you see this in the fact that gladiator matches lost their popularity with the rise of the Church. I am not sure why the bull-fights in Catholic Spain are so much better than the gladiator matches, but those aren’t necessarily encouraged by the Church. But what do you say to the form of entertainment, not only encouraged by the Church, but invented by the Church? I speak here of watching human beings burn at the stake. There is a Catholic institution called “The Inquisition” which supplied the human fodder for such “entertainment” by the hundreds of thousands. I hope you understand why I don’t see the value of human life as something so deeply integral to the Church’s legacy.

Yes, the Church did bring the Jewish Scriptures to the gentile world and that book teaches the value of human life. But who is to say that the Church did what would have otherwise not happened? Had Jesus not been born it is entirely possible that the message of the Jewish Scriptures would have eventually seeped into the gentile world. After all, even with the Church’s missionary activity, it took the Reformation and the Renaissance, both of which were opposed by the Catholic Church, to get some of the basic principles of civilization to the masses. If the Church would not have taught the pagan to despise the Jew, perhaps the pagan would have more quickly seen the light? I don’t know that this would have happened but you don’t know that it wouldn’t have happened.

The Church is a tree of good and evil. The good is what it took from Judaism and this is what makes its teachings attractive to the human conscience. Just because the Church rode the light of truth for its own benefit doesn’t mean that anyone owes anything to Jesus. And it certainly doesn’t justify calling him the fulfillment of the hopes of the Jewish prophets.

The Jewish prophets foretold of a world united in worship of the Creator of heaven and earth to the exclusion of anyone else. They saw this as the ultimate climax of the history of man. The missionary effort to get worshipers of the Creator to give their hearts to another entity is a step backwards. And the effort to expose the falsity of the claims of this missionary campaign is a step in the direction of the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures.

 

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